Cult horse Mr Brightside (NZ) (Bullbars) commenced his autumn campaign in the Gr.1 C.F. Orr Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on Saturday and after looking beaten for much of the contest called on all his fighting qualities to mow down bold front runner Pride Of Jenni (Pride Of Dubai) and Buffalo River (Noble Mission) in the shadows of the post.
The Ben, Will and JD Hayes-trained gelding has a never say die quality that has endeared him to racing fans and has been scarcely out of the money since crossing the Tasman from New Zealand.
The non-descript son of Bullbars was a near certainty beaten in a Matamata maiden exactly three years ago to the date and has gone on to bag five Group One victories plus an A$5 million All-Star Mile in his 15 victories since.
Sent out a $1.85 favourite, Mr Brightside was slow from the gates but quickly mustered under regular rider Craig Williams, who got him into fifth position one off the fence.
Bonny Trelawney Stud-bred mare Pride Of Jenni adopted her customary front-running role under Declan Bates, setting a strong tempo that had most of the field gasping.
But after playing second fiddle to Pride Of Jenni in the Gr.1 Champions Mile (1600m) at Flemington last spring, Mr Brightside turned the tables on resumption on Saturday to collar the mare on the line.
JD Hayes said the win can be the start of a huge campaign for the son of Bullbars, who until Saturday had never won first-up in the autumn.
“He’s a great horse. He’s so dear to our hearts. He was slow away, but it worked out perfectly with the pace on,” Hayes said.
“Pride Of Jenni was so brave there, but I was glad that he got there late and there’s so much improvement in him to come. Hopefully it’s the start of a big autumn.”
The stable has also been vindicated in their belief that Mr Brightside’s slightly underwhelming jumpouts were of no concern as they build towards a campaign targeting the Gr.1 Futurity Stakes (1400m), A$4 million All-Star Mile (1600m) and Gr.1 Australian Cup (2000m).
“He’s been beaten in the autumn first-up every time so if history repeats, this is a first for him, and we’re very happy,” Hayes said.
“He’s a seasoned campaigner now and there was nothing to read into the trials and jumpouts. We thought it was nothing for him just being an older horse.
“I’d just like to take the opportunity to thank everyone at home and all of the clients supporting us. It’s such a team effort and when a horse like Mr Brightside is able to fly the flag, it gives us a reason to have a sore head in the morning.”
A son of the former Highview Stud stallion Bullbars, Mr Brightside is out of the Tavistock (NZ) mare Lilahjay (NZ) (Tavistock), who is also the dam of Will Power (NZ) (Power), an eight-time winner in Hong Kong.
Mr Brightside was bred by Ray Johnson in partnership with his late wife Martha. He was sold as a yearling for $22,000 via Janine Dunlop’s Phoenix Park at the 2019 New Zealand Bloodstock May Sale, then failed to meet his $50,000 reserve when re-offered at the New Zealand Bloodstock Ready to Run Sale.
Later an opportunity arose for Johnson to buy him back on gavelhouse.com for just $7,750, in conjunction with Cambridge trainer Ralph Manning and good friend Shaun Dromgool.
Mr Brightside finished a luckless fifth in his sole New Zealand start at Matamata for Manning, having previously won a trial. He was subsequently sold privately to clients of the Hayes stable via Australian agent Wayne Ormond. The Kiwi-bred star has now won 15 of his 30 starts, with a further seven placings and boasts prizemoney of A$11,925,752.